Despite what Instagram would have you believe, plant parenting is hard. There are so many questions to answer. Are you watering too much? Not enough? Is the light in your space bright, indirect, or low? What is soil rot? Why is everything dying?
This is why moving your plant from one container to another can seem like an overwhelming task. But repotting keeps plants happy and healthy, and there are a few signs it may be time, like:Â
Your plant has clearly outgrown its pot
Roots are growing through drainage holes or pushing your plant up
Your plant is top-heavy or growing extra slowly during its normal growth season
The soil is dried out, disintegrating, or no longer absorbing water
You’re tired of your old planter
Early spring is the best time to repot as your plants come out of their winter hibernation and into their growing season. Here’s how to do it.
Gather your tools
You'll need to have a few things handy before you pull your plant out of its current home:
A new pot that is slightly larger and deeper. Don't go too large " an extra 1 " 2 inches in diameter is plenty for a small plant, while 2 " 4 inches will do for a larger plant.
Fresh potting mix
A watering can, measuring cup, water bottle, or spray bottle
Prep your plant and pot
Water your plant at least a day before you remove it from its current pot. This keeps the root ball (basically, the mass of roots and soil) from disintegrating. You may also moisten the new potting mix if it's really dry.
Add a base layer of potting mix to the new container. If it has drainage holes, place it in a tray or put a coffee filter in the bottom first to prevent soil from falling out. Your base layer should be thick enough so that when you place the plant inside, it doesn't come higher than the top of the pot.
Remove and prune your plant
Don't just yank your plant out by its stem. You can turn the pot sideways and tap the sides and bottom of the container or turn it upside down and gently rotate the plant until it slides out.
Loosen the root ball with your fingers (but don't shred it to pieces), and cut away any extra-long roots that are growing outside of the ball.
Repot your plant
Place your plant on top of the fresh soil and fill in the empty space around it so it stays upright. You don't have to fill it all the way to the top or pack the soil down. Leave some space (about an inch for larger containers) between the soil and the top of the pot.
Repotting can be stressful for plants, so water your plant well and keep it out of direct sunlight for a few days.
Of course, not every plant needs repotting. Some can handle it every 1 " 2 years, while others may prefer not to be disrupted. You also don't have to put your plant in a new pot if it hasn't outgrown its current home. The repotting process can simply be used to prune roots or change out old soil.
This article has been updated since its original publication.